EU: Joao Vale de Almeida says ‘we want to look forward’
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Joao Vale de Almeida said the European Union wants to “look forward, not back” following the extension of the chilled meat grace period – dubbed the “sausage wars” – and said previous clashes with the UK should not dictate their relationship. The UK and EU came to loggerheads when grace periods on chilled meats entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain was due to end. Mr Almedia said it was a “good day” for the EU and UK and fought back against claims the bloc was prioritising the single market over peace in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to Channel 4’s Matt Frei, Mr Vale de Almeida was asked whether the three-month extension was enough to deal with the fundamental issues.
The EU ambassador replied: “This is what the UK Government asked for, we have accepted that request under a number of conditions.
“But I think the main point here is to facilitate the life of a citizen in Ireland and this is a good day for the EU/UK relationship and I think a good day for Northern Ireland.”
Mr Frei then put to the ambassador that some people are criticising the EU for endangering peace on the island of Ireland because the bloc was “more interested in the sanctity of the single market.”
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The EU chief strongly disagreed and said: “I think those decisions speak to the exact opposite.
“We care about citizens and we care about the Good Friday agreement, we were there since the beginning.
“The EU was a major contributor to the Good Friday Agreement and today we are present on the ground supporting communities, working together to lay the foundations for peace and prosperity.”
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Mr Frei then asked whether the EU could trust Prime Minister Boris Johnson following disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol despite the UK agreeing to the terms.
The EU chief replied: “We want to look forward or not backwards.
“We want to build his relationship under the new terms which results from the British decision to withdraw.
“And we should concentrate our efforts, we are not here to score points on this piece of the past, we are here to build the future together.”
Since Britain’s departure from the European Union this year, the Northern Ireland Protocol has remained a contentious political area that has seen the UK and EU clash multiple times.
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Border checks on goods caused huge delays to supply chains with some Irish supermarkets experiencing delays to deliveries.
However, many retailers are worried that shelves could be empty following the end of grace periods by October this year.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove met with EU Vice-president Maros Sefcovic multiple times to iron out the implementation of the Protocol and asked for a three-year extension to grace periods.
The demand was denied and grace periods on chilled meats was due to end by the end of June which would have prevented foods like sausages from entering Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland remains partially in the EU’s single market so goods entering the country via Great Britain are subject to checks as if they were entering the EU.
The EU does not accept chilled meats from third countries and this rule would have been enforced against Great Britain.
The UK and EU also clashed over vaccine exports where the EU suggested and quickly rescinded implementing Article 16 to install a hard border across Ireland.
The EU at the time was struggling with vaccine supply with the European Commission allowing stronger border powers to monitor the export of vaccines out of the continent.
A hard border across Northern Ireland would have been implemented, if needed, to prevent vaccines from entering the UK through a back door.
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